Fulmer anxious to see how a pair of first-time starters perform in Saturday’s game at Memphis
How Tennessee handles its first away venture is at the top of head coach Phillip Fulmer’s list of mid-week concerns.
The Vols are pretty much through with preparations for Saturday’s first trip of the season, a date at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium against Memphis. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. Central time (Noon Eastern Time).
“It’s important we handle this first road trip with maturity,” Fulmer said. “We want to be rested and looking sharp for the game, especially an early one like this Saturday. Our guys typically have done that.”
The Vols, 3-1, opened with four consecutive games at Neyland Stadium but now face a two-game swing that concludes with an Oct. 7 visit to Georgia. Following that test over the next month are home dates against Alabama and LSU and trips to South Carolina and Arkansas.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be the kind of team that continues to improve over the course of the season. Not only the starting players but also the younger guys who we’ve really pushed. We’re going to need those guys as we go along,” Fulmer added.
Fulmer said he’s eager to see how a pair of newcomers to the starting lineup — center Josh McNeil and tailback LaMarcus Coker — perform over a full game.
“Can they play four quarters at the level they need to play, that’s what we need to find out. They certainly have practiced that way.”
Coker roared off the bench Saturday to carry eight times for 146 yards and a touchdown in Tennessee’s 33-7 win over Marshall. Included was an 89-yard TD run that was the third-longest in school history.
McNeil has played in three games at center, also in a reserve role. The two are both redshirt freshmen.
Tennessee’s game captains for Saturday are offensive guard David Ligon, defensive tackle Turk McBride, linebacker Marvin Mitchell, offensive tackle Arron Sears, cornerback Antwan Stewart and wide receiver Jayson Swain.
Memphis enters the weekend at 1-2, with losses at Mississippi and East Carolina sandwiched around a home win over Chattanooga. The Tigers are coached by former Vol tight end Tommy West.